This simply terrific action-drama shows that HK Cinema isn’t dead yet. Writer Chan Hing-Kai and Gordon Chan (co-directing with Dante Lam) take their usual “cop soap opera” a step further with this take on the darker side of cop life.
Anthony Wong is Brother Tung, a cop/triad hybrid who keeps the streets clean, but does it while hanging with the triads. His new boss, Mike Cheung (Michael Wong) is an uptight former SDU member who was transferred when he offed his corrupt superior officer. Mike takes Tung’s unorthodox ways in stride, but stresses that there’s black vs. white, and not Tung’s decidedly gray ways.
Mike begins to change his tune when he finds himself attracted to Yoyo (Kathy Chow). A madam of a local nightclub run by Tung’s buddy Big Brother Fai (Roy Cheung). Fai had to flee, leaving his lieutenant Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam) in his stead. However, Pushy Pin turns out to be too ambitious, which creates big problems for Tung. Eventually Tung discovers that gray is compose of black and white. But sometimes there’s just a little too much black. Beast Cops (Dac Canh Da Thu) supposes that there should be honor among thieves, but when no honor exists one can only do what’s necessary. In Tung’s case, it’s getting hopped up on uppers and beer for an over-the-top revenge finale that’s bloody and simply amazing.
Complex and engaging, this film takes its sweet time to get going, but once it does it becomes utterly compelling. Like Task Force (and to a lesser extent Option Zero), this film succeeds not through an awesome plot or action, but through well-drawn, engaging characters and involving situations. This is Michael Wong’s best role, and he handles it well as his wooden delivery is perfect for the rigid character he portrays. Kathy Chow (Chau Hai My) is both winning and affecting as the flighty but deeply felt Yoyo, and Roy Cheung brings integrity to his part as Fai. However, it’s Anthony Wong who owns the entire film with his tour-de-force as Tung. Easily one of the best films of 1998.
Wow, where do I start? I guess I should begin by saying that this is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. Period. Movies like this are the reason I love cinema.
The story concerns HK cops Tung (Anthony Wong) and Sam (Sam Lee), who are in deep with the triads. The two of them basically hang out at triad establishments and don’t do any real police work at all. Tung has a gambling problem and always seems to be short on cash. Skinny Sam is basically comic relief, and his escapades mostly involve womanizing and playing video games when on duty.
Their routine gets disturbed when they get a new boss named Mike (Michael Wong), who is part Chinese, part Western, and a bit of a greenhorn in the ways of Hong Kong street life. He is also very serious about his job as opposed to the slacker attitudes of Tung and Sam. This causes obvious conflict between Sam, Tung, and Mike at first. But then Tung rents his room out to Mike and their worlds begin to crossover and influence one other.
The rest of the film just chronicles their day-to-day lives and the continuing crossover of their two worlds. Eventually they discover that there really isn’t much of a difference at all. Mike gradually gets caught up with Sam and Tung’s lifestyle, and even ends up falling in love with the ex-girlfriend/madam of the Big Brother Fai (Roy Cheung), who’s fled the country for legal reasons. And Tung and Sam are influence by Mike’s dedication and become better cops.
There aren’t a lot of gunfights in this movie so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, stick to John Woo’s films. The fight scenes in Beast Cops are few and far between. And all involve big, scary knives. Case-in-point: Tung’s final confrontation with Fai’s lieutenant Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam), who goes power-hungry during the course of the film. Tung takes revenge by going after Pushy Pin in one of the best “ballistic” performances Anthony Wong has ever given. To make it even better, Tung downs a six-pack of Foster’s Lager and a handful of pills before he goes about his business. Of course, Mike and Sam show up to get in on the fun as well. And the ending wraps things up so perfectly that discussing it would be giving too much away.
If the Hong Kong Film Awards had not given the best actor statue to Wong for this movie. Then I personally would have had to fly to Hong Kong to kick some major HK academy ass. Wong goes covers a lot of emotional territory here, from mischievous freeloader to dejected lover to wounded animal. And, he hits every note perfectly. It’s like you’re watching a human symphony playing onscreen.
If this plot synopsis makes the film sound llike just another cop film. It’s because a plot synopsis simply can’t do Beast Cops justice. What makes this film so special are all of the little character moments. There are many scenes where it’s just the principals standing on a street corner talking, but the scenes are far from boring. Each scene moves the story along and gives the viewer more insight into the characters and their lives. Beast Cops isn’t an action film (phim hanh dong vo thuat); it’s a character study. Absolute kudos to everyone involved with this wonderful movie!